Darrin Magee, The many forms of water security in China, China Policy Institute Blog, November 4, 2014.
By some measures, China is not a water-scarce country. Per capita water resources stood at just over 2,000 cubic meters in 2013 according to the National Bureau of Statistics, with overall water availability at nearly 2.8 trillion cubic meters. Yet these figures tell only part of the story. China’s seemingly sufficient water resources are severely polluted, unevenly distributed in space and time, inefficiently utilized, and increasingly diverted away from agriculture toward higher-value-added uses. Moreover, as the Chinese government moves forward on a path toward less reliance on carbon-based energy sources and greater use of non-hydro renewables like solar and wind, hydropower will almost certainly gain importance as a dispatchable electricity generation source that can balance the intermittent nature of solar and wind. Some of that hydropower will be developed on transboundary rivers in China’s southwest, further raising tensions with downstream neighbors already wary of China’s intentions.